Turn Your Manuscript into a Visual Masterpiece

You may have noticed – I hope you have – that both of my ebooks are now dressed up with significantly upgraded covers.

When I first published these I struggled with finding a resource for designing professional and compelling covers.  There are plenty of do-it-yourself solutions out there, but almost all require high-end desktop publishing software.  So I went out-of-house without knowing what I really needed.  

The cover of my first ebook ended up looking more like a DVD case.  The next one was done quickly and ended up as a 2-D design.

That was before I found Colin Dunbar.  Or I should say, he found me.

Colin offered to upgrade my covers, and the designs you see to the right are the outcome of that offer.  In return I offered to introduce and recommend him to my readers, many of whom are interested in publishing their own ebooks.

But it gets better.  Because all Storyfix readers are interested in manuscripts, and Colin provides a valuable service there, too.  Our manuscripts need to be perfect in every possible way, including visual presentation, and a professional designer like Colin is one way to make it happen.

So please enjoy Colin’s guest post below, and, if you’re close to publishing an ebook or submitting a manuscript, check out his site (see his ad at the bottom right of this Home page).

Turn Your Manuscript into a Visual Masterpiece

A guest post by book designer Colin Dunbar

You’ve invested hours and hours in your book.  Weeks.  Months.  Maybe more than a year. 

You’ve run spell check after spell check.  Read and re-read your genius words.  Had your manuscript edited.  Your friends have read it. 

The jury is in – you’re ready.

But wait.  Are you really ready?  Maybe there’s one more base to cover.

Does your book look as professional as it reads?

Have you considered that editing is not the same thing as page design?

If you’re writing your book to make money, either as a published author or a publishing author, you need to consider these issues carefully.

Imagine thumbing through a book you’ve plucked from the shelf at a bookstore.  You notice that it lacks a compelling cover design, and when you look inside, all you see is plain text with the title and author’s name.  There are no page numbers, no table of contents, no alphabetical index.  The margins aren’t consistent, and there is no white space where there should be white space.

What would your perception of that book be?  Would you buy it?

As an author, this is your future.  Because every prospective reader, whether it’s an ebook or a published book, bases their purchase decision largely on these visual cues.

You’ve designed your story.  Now it’s time to design your product.

First impressions count.  With readers, and with publishers.

As Richard Hendel writes in On Book Design, “What the author writes in a book is not all that tells what a book is about.  The physical shape of the book, as well as its typography, also defines it.  Every choice made by a designer has some effect on the reader. The effect may be radical or subtle, but it is usually outside a reader’s ability to describe.”

Professional book design encompasses everything required to turn your book into a user-friendly reference work, or an easy-to-read fictional work.

Some elements to consider with book design are:

* Suitable headlines and sub-headings.

* Paragraph and sentence length.

* Font selection and size.

* Suitable images that support the text (non-fiction).

* Language that is easy to read.

* Layout that suits the type of book (e.g. children’s book versus business book).

* Margins, headers and spacing for total visual appeal.

Don’t leave your success to chance.

You wouldn’t arrive at a job interview or your wedding without paying special attention to how you look.  Even though that day gives way to a deeper, more rewarding experience.  You’ve put too much of yourself into that moment when it all begins.

So it is with your ebook or your submitted manuscript.

Book design is not about tricking your manuscript out with fancy trimmings, it’s about turning a good book into an effective, easy-to-use or entertaining professional product.

If you are a serious author, and want your work taken seriously, and especially if you want people to buy and keep your book, then professional book design services could make the difference between success and failure.

Colin Dunbar has more than 30 years experience in book design. He also enjoys writing non-fiction, and is the author of Invest in Yourself and How to Get What You Want.  You can check out his book design service at his website, or click on the ad below, and/or at the far right of this page.

  • Book Design Service

    Colin Dunbar's Book Design Service
  • 2 Comments

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    2 Responses to Turn Your Manuscript into a Visual Masterpiece

    1. Hear, hear! Also bear in mind your target media. A printed book is not the same as a PDF designed to read on the computer screen and is not the same as an ereader format (epub, Kindle, etc.).

      On my Sorcerer offerings, I have 4 different print (hard copy) formats, a screen-optimized PDF format and (Real Soon Now) an ereader format for .epub. Each is a bit different in type size, layout, etc.

      An on-screen or ereader presentation probably should have no headers or footers; they use up valuable screen real estate. Although there’s always debate on the issue, a hard-copy format would have serif fonts for body text, while an on-screen/ereader format would have sans-serif fonts.

      If you do your homework right from the start, you should be working is a word processor that uses paragraph and character styles. As you pump out your copy, keep applying the proper styles. That way, if you need to change the visual appearance, you can simply change the style definition and it flows right through. No manual formatting, please.

      If you’re not at least somewhat familiar with page/book design, get a Colin to help you. Then you can set up a word processor template with the design and use it for all ten of your first-year’s output.

      While not part of Larry’s Six Core Competencies, your actual presentation is a major selling point. While you can’t buy artistic ability, you can buy a decent presentation of your work.

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